As frontman of acerbic noise punks Pissed Jeans, Matt Korvette has spent the last 13 years howling about the absurdities of modern life such as office-supply deliveries and joggers.
For eight of those years, Korvette has also been running YELLOW GREEN RED, a respected music site that each month rounds up and reviews and interviews the best in punk, hardcore, and electronic music.
It's a site where you are just as likely to find reviews of albums released on labels such as In the Red, Iron Long and Cool Death as you are L.I.E.S, PAN, and Aguirre and Korvette's breadth of knowledge and astute taste has helped earn him a reputation as being a talented and honest reviewer and writer.
On the back of Pissed Jeans', fifth album Why Love Now, the Pennsylvania band are heading to Australia for the first time for a run of shows that Noisey are excited to be presenting. We thought it would be a good time to ask Matt some questions about reviewing music. Because we do that too.
Noisey: How did YGR start? What were the first reviews?
Matt Korvette: Before YGR, I had written for a print zine called Skyscraper. That was my first 'real' experience writing. I did record reviews and artist interviews, and it was a lot of fun. You can go to YGR and load the first month's reviews if you want, each month is linked on the right side. The format really hasn't changed that much, as far as genres of music I generally focus on.
Have you always been into writing?
Yeah, I think so. I just enjoy doing it. I wrote for local punk zines back in early high school, and just kinda always found a way to do something along those lines ever since. I really like to actively participate in the cultures I'm into.
What music blogs did you first start reading? How did they have an impact on YGR?
Blastitude was a huge inspiration early on. The style of writing, and taste, really rubbed off on me. I really just ate it up, each time there'd be a new 'issue', because I'd get turned on to so much cool new shit. I also really liked Agony Shorthand, although that was a few years later, and I appreciated Still Single too. If anything, they all showed me that having my own voice is important. I like reading someone who I feel like I sort of understand, or at least know where they're coming from. There's too much writing out there that politely praises music in the exact same way.
I'm curious as to why it's called YELLOW GREEN RED. Those unfamiliar may think it's a site that reviews reggae.
I wanted it to have a name that didn't immediately conjure any specific sound. If I named it after a Joy Division or Desperate Bicycles song, or a Ricardo Villalobos album title, it'd always kind of loom under the weight of that, you know? I wanted something with no connotations, although I really do enjoy quite a bit of reggae, it's just not something that gets reviewed often. To me, I'm reminded of a stoplight.
You also ran the label White Denim which seems to be on hiatus. As a blog writer what advice do you have for bands and labels as far as getting their stuff reviewed?
I recommend that anyone looking to do a band or label does it with the purpose of following their own creativity and trying to entertain themselves over anything else. The moment you are trying to fit yourself into a scene or movement, you're losing something. I'm most interested in people who are doing records simply because they need to do them to stay sane, not because they are looking for critical assessment or popularity or whatever.
Has touring with Pissed Jeans opened up opportunities as far as reviewing/getting records etc?
I don't think so, maybe a little. I still think there are a lot of people who don't know I do YGR, either they're not aware that it exists, or they don't make the connection. I'm not out there promoting it a whole lot, it's mostly just a word-of-mouth thing that's gained interest slowly over the years. That works for me!
In recent years you've covered a lot of Euro and UK techno and electronic music. I like how you can read reviews of the new Impalers or Glue next to Laurel Halo and Charles Manier. When/how did you first get into the UK electronic stuff?
Hmm, not sure I can pinpoint when I got into UK electronic music... I'd guess somewhere in the mid 00s, when I first started going to a record store called Tequila Sunrise (RIP) that stocked all that. First checking out Burial, Mala, Skream, all that early dubstep stuff was pretty mind-expanding, at the same time as checking out the Kompakt label and stuff like that. It was pretty exciting. I'm still just trying to find out about more cool music that I'm currently unaware of.
As a white dude are you conscious of covering and representing music that is not just produced by other white dudes?
I am, although it's not particularly a hard thing to do - there is such a huge amount of great music being made by non-white non-guys. There probably always has been, but the internet has really levelled the playing field as far as getting exposure, which is good in that way. If anything, I try to be conscious of how I talk about music made by people who aren't white guys - I don't want white guys to be the centred default. You're not going to see me describe a band as "female", ever, for example. That shit needs to go.
What other music writers/reviewers do you read/respect? Do you visit Termbo much?
I subscribe to The Wire, and really enjoy it. I think their reviews are far more hilarious than the magazine gets credit for. I do not visit Termbo often but I try to check out their reviews when I can, which is fairly easy since they only update it like once a year or something. I appreciate their dedication to garage and punk.
There seems a trend in Australia of punks dabbling in or creating techno or house records. Do you see that in the US?
Yeah, it's everywhere. Punks get bored, a few cool people do a new thing (or a thing that's new to their peer group), and everyone catches on. I think it makes sense for the times, as people are more and more isolated, friends stay in touch electronically every day but don't come in physical contact more than once a month. So it makes sense that people are making music in isolation in front of computers or whatever. Kinda sad, but what can you do.
It becomes clear that you are a music lover and have wide ranging tastes. I like your Discogs deal part of the blog where you even cover obscure 90s emo. Ha! Is there a particular music style that you don't really dig?
Ah thanks! I'd love to do that some more. I love tipping people off to stuff I think is great, and overlooked, and cheap. If someone wanted to get into emo-core right now, they could probably get like 30 great records and spend no more than $100. I like to think I can find enjoyment in any particular style of music. I was gonna say opera, or Christian hymns, but there are already examples of both that I enjoy. Music rules.
Do you ever give negative reviews? What is the most difficult review you've had to give?
All the time! I think each month has at least some sort of criticism to be found, although hopefully not too harsh (unless warranted). The hardest review is when personal friends give me records to review and I'm not totally feeling it - haven't we all been there?
'Why Love Now' is available now through Sub Pop.